LINGUIST List 7.1222

Mon Sep 2 1996

Disc: Sumerian and PIE

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <[email protected]>


  1. miguel, Sumerian and PIE

Message 1: Sumerian and PIE

Date: Sun, 01 Sep 1996 18:47:06 PDT
From: miguel <[email protected]>
Subject: Sumerian and PIE
I posted the following to the USENET sci.lang newsgroup.
I thought it might be of interest to any Sumerologists and
Indo-Europeanists subscribed to LINGUIST.

<< begin quoted message [slightly edited] >>

[email protected] (Miguel Carrasquer Vidal) wrote:

>[email protected] (John A. Halloran) wrote:

>> There is simply no point
>>of contact between what may be basic roots in Eurasiatic languages and the
>>Sumerian vocabulary.

>That might be a bit exaggerated.  Browsing through your wordlist, and
>freely associating with Pokorny, I found the following possible
>cognates between Sumerian and PIE (I suspect Kartvelian and
>Afro-Asiatic are likely to turn up even more).

I take that back.  I now suspect that no other language can be closer
to Sumerian than Indo-European.

[original list snipped]

This started out as a joke, but it's not funny anymore.  It scares the
hell out of me: every other Sumerian word I check fits the pattern.
Am I just deluding myself or is there really something to it?

Here's what I've got so far:

Preliminary rules for converting from Indo-European C(c)VC(c) roots to
Sumerian words:

Initial consonants are mostly preserved, except that the voiced
aspirates merge with the voiced unaspirates.  The laryngeal situation
seems to be more or less like in Hittite: some H1 (and H3?) are
preserved, H2 seemingly not.  M, n, l, r and s are preserved (except
that s sometimes goes to s^ if there's a laryngeal in the word?).
Consonantal u (w) is Sumerian g~ [sometimes also labiovelars?], i (y)
seems to disappear.  Initial clusters: sk-, sH- > s^, st-, tH-? > z-.
Others seem to be simplified by dropping the second element.  The
final consonantal segment is dropped if it consists of a voiced stop
or <s>, and becomes voiced if it is unvoiced.  The labiovelars and
-w(H)- tend to show up as g~ (=w) or m.  Liquids and nasals are mostly
preserved [some confusion between final -n and -m], as are the s^ and
z clusters.

Some examples:

*ab- "water"                    a "water"
*apo- (Lat. opacus "shady")     ab "window" ?
*andh- "flower, plant"          an "grain ear"
*ais- "desire"                  as^ "desire"
*auH- "say" (Toch. "command")   ag~(a) "command"
*auH- "love"                    ag~(a) "love"
*Hkeu- "hear"                   aka, ag, a "listen"
*ag- "act, do"                  aka, ag, a "make, do"
*ukw(e)sen "ox"                 ama, am "aurochs" ?
*ar(e)g- "bright"               ara, ar, ra "bright"
*ar- (Skrt. arati "servant")    arad "slave, servant"
*apsaH "ash (tree)"             asa-l "Euphrates poplar tree"
*agr- "field"                   agar "field" ?

*bhaH "say"                     bi, be "say"
*bhel- "blow"                   bul, bu "to blow,
*bhel- "grow"                            to sprout,
*bhel- "bright, white"                   to ignite"
*bher- "carry, bear"            barag, bara, bar "stand, support"
*bher- "open, bore"             buru, bur "bore through"
*bher- "cook, brew"             bur "meal, repast"
*bher- "twine"                  barag, bara, bar "nest"
*bal- "to turn"                 bala, bal "spindle, revolve, change"
*bheleu- "sick"                 balag~ "funeral song" ?
*bhoHgh- "bog, clay"            bahar "potter" ?
*peug- (Gmc. pu:st- "fist")     buzur "hand, palm" ?

*deru- "tree"                   du [=dru] "build, fasten, work"
*dlku- "sweet"                  dug, du "sweet"
*dlnghu- "tongue"               dug, du "speak, speech" ?
*dheigh- "clay, earth"          dig "moist, soft, workable"
*del- "long, far"               dal "far, fly, race"
*dholo- "mound"                 dul, du "mound, <tell>"
*demH- "house, build, tame"     dam "spouse", dim "build"
*deH-mn- "tie, rope"            dim "tie, rope"
*dhelg(h)- "needle"             dalla, dala "needle"
*deuH- "long time, far"         dag~al "wide"
*deiw- "god"                    dig~ir "god"

*eHg-, Hg- "speak, say"         e "speak,say"
*edh- "fence, dwelling"         e "house"
*akwaH, e:kw- "water, drink"    eg, ig, e "canal, to water"
*en- "year"                     en "time"
*(dl)ingwaH "tongue"            eme "tongue" ?
*ekwaH "mare"                   eme "she-ass" ?
*wes- "summer" (Hwes- ?)        emes^ "summer"
?Germanic winter                entena "winter" ??
*ed- "to eat"                   ezinu "grain, cereal" ? (< ed-tinu ??)

*gut-r- "throat"                gu "neck"
*geus- "eat, taste"             gu, ku "eat, swallow"
*gwou-dh- "cow"                 gu, gud, gudr "ox, bull"
*wal-, *wel- "big"              gal, g~al "big"
*gonu- "knee"                   gam "kneel"
*ghombh- "tooth"                gam "sickle" ?
*gen- "to give birth"           gan "to bring forth"
*geu-, *gu-r- "circle"          gur "circle"
*geus- "pour, smelt"            gus^-kin "gold"

*we "we"                        g~a "I"
*we-ker "evening"               gig, gi, ge, g~i, g~e, mi, me "night"
*gwem- "to come, go"            g~in, g~en "come, go"
*gwes- "twig"                   g~is^, g~es^ "tree"
*wer- "wound, stab"             g~iri, g~ir "knife, stab"
*wer-(t)- "turn, trip"          g~iri, g~ir "road, trip"
*wer- "guard, save"             g~ar, g~a "storehouse, store, ..."
*wedh- "to take away"           (g~)ir(i) "booty, capture, drive away"
   [dh- sometimes seems to go to <d>, <r>, <dr> the mysterious /dr/
    phoneme of Sumerian, cf. *gwou-dh- gud[r]]
*weid-, *wid- "see, know"       g~es^-tug "ear, hear, understand"
   [dt > s^t]

*dhghu- "fish"                  ku(a), ha [?] "fish" ?
*Hau- "bird"                    hu "bird"

<to do>                         [h i k l m n p r]

*sek- "to cut, etc."            sa "compare, equal in value" ?
*seu- "give birth"              su "to grow, multiply"
*sed- "to sit"                  si "to stand, be straight, be still"
*seu-p "to sip, suckle"         sub "to suck, suckle"
*sep- "to honour"               sub "to bless, to pray"
*sewe- "self, alone, person"    sag~ "head, human" ?
*gon-[edh-] "chin"              sun, sum "chin" ???
   [g' > s is unexpected...]

*(s)ke-r-, ~-u-, ~-i- etc.
1. wrinkle, dry up              s^a "dry up", s^ir "testicles" ?
2. turn, bend, link             s^ed "link", s^ita "bind, bond"
3. cut, destroy                 s^a "cut" , s^e "portion",
                                s^ar "drive away" ...
=> *(s)kut- skin, hide          kus^ "skin, hide"
=> German Schar "troop"         s^ar "to be many, world, slaughter"
4. cover, shadow                s^u "dark, cover", s^e(d) "cool"
5. shine, bright                s^un "star", s^en "shiny"
6. shit                         s^e "excrement"

*(s)kre:m "scratch, sword"      s^um "butcher, slaughter"
*k(e)rem "garlic, onion"        s^um "garlic, onion"
*seuH- "rain, wet"              s^eg~ "rain"
*sneghw- "snow"                 s^eg~ "snow, ice"
*ske-u(H)- [1] "drought, heat"  s^eg~ "hot; cook, boil" ?

*tep- "hot"                     tab "sting, fever, burn"
*trep- "shake"                  tab "shake" ?
*tag-, *tak-t- "touch"          tag "touch"
*temH- "dark"                   ten "cold" ?
*ter, *teru "tender, young"     tur "small, child"
*teuk- "seed, progeny"          tuku, tuk, tug, tu "own, get, marry"

*genu- "chin, cheek"            te, de "chin, cheek"
*gweiHw- "live"                 ti, til "live"
*kel-, *ghel- "shout"           til, tal "shout"
   [Velar before e/i palatalizes to t/d???]

<to do>                         [u z]

   [Just some examples of initial z:
    za "you" = ??
    za = "stone" ?
    zu "tooth" = *steu- "hit, beat"?
    zi = "stench"
    zib = "stamp"
    zig, zi = "stand"
    zuh = "steal"
    zal = "stall, [wait]" "bronze [white stone]" => "stannum"?

Sumerian grammar is of course completely un-Indo-European, but that
would be consistent with a language that has lost all final syllables
to phonetic wear and tear, and has subsequently rebuilt an [ergative]
agglutinative case and verbal system.  Sumerian pronouns are also
radically different from IE, which is hard to explain, unless they
follow some strange sound-laws of their own [kwi >]...

Help, am I crazy??

<< end quoted message >>

In the last few hours [h, some i], I have found:

*weit- "branch, twig"      g~i-dru "scepter" [= "tree branch"!]

<... H>
*e:ik- "to won, rich"      he "abundance"
es- "to be"                he "be! (imper.)" ?
a:p- (3) "sick, weak"      hab "to stink, rot"
*Huebh- "weave"            hub, hup "weaver"
*erH, *res-, *rem- "rest"  hun "to rest", *hug~ "id."
*Hol-, (*ol-e-, *el- (5))  hul "evil, hated, hostile"
  "destroy", Hitt. hullai- "bekaempfen"
*arqu- "gebogenes"         har "ring; young, small" ?
Hitt. har(k)- "to have"    har, ar3, ur5 "loan, debt,
*arwaH "intestine"                   liver, soul,
*al- (5) "grind, mill"               hand mill, chew"
*ereb, ro:b "bore, needle" hur "scratch, sketch, inscribe"
*ozdos "twig"              has^, haz "break off twigs"
*a:ter- "fire"             hada2, had2 "shine brightly, dry"
Hitt. hark- "destroy"      hara, ara3 "pulverize, crush"
*albho- "white"            halba, halbi "frost, freezing" ?
<I ...>
*okw-, *ekw- "eye"         igi "eye, to see"
Lat. idus, Osc. eiduis,
Ir. e'sce "moon, idus"     id4, it4 "moon"
*Hnom-, *Hnem- "name"      inim "word"

Further notes on Sumerian in general: the Sumerian numerals and
kinship terms bear no relation to the PIE ones [but cf. in part
Hittite].  The lexicon as outlined above shows no particular affinity
with Hittite [rather with Tocharian and Germanic?].  I can't even
begin to imagine what the consequences would be for the Urheimat

Comments, criticisms, corrections and contributions are
welcome and badly needed.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
[email protected]
Amsterdam, NL
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